Taobao, a famous online shopping website based in China with everything you need,at a cheap price.
The downside is that it’s all in Chinese. For those who can’t read the language, ordering from Taobao is a headache.
Of course, you can use an agent but direct shopping will save you money. you’ll avoid agent’s fees of up to 10% and the expensive international shipping fee they charge.
so here are step by step English guide to get you started on your taobao shopping journey even if you can’t read Chinese.
Part 1. Preparation
Can I buy from Taobao/Tmall directly as a foreigner ?
Yes if you are from the following areas.
Taobao has launched its overseas market website (world.taobao.com or taobao lite app) and official forwarding Services(Taobao cargo) specially for international buyers.
It currently supports the following areas:
|Shipping Methods||Shipping Model||Supported Areas:|
|Taobao Global Direct Shipping(直送)||Air||Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan|
|Taobao Global Consolidation and Shipping(集运)||Air||USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan|
|Sea||Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan|
Note: If you are not from areas above,you have to order from taobao through taobao shopping agent or shipping agent who can help you make a purchse on taobao and ship it to you.
what I cann’t buy directly from taobao as a foreigner ?
Before you place an order, you should know there are some sensitive items that Taobao and the forwarder will not allow foreigners to buy and ship.
Your orders will be rejected to enter the forwarder warehouse if they scan sensitive items in your parcel, and some may even be detained and destroyed.
I have listed the 8 most common categories of sensitive items below,try to avoid any of them.
1. Items exceed size or weight limits set by taobao warehouse
Each forwarder warehouse has set a limit for the max weight and size of the parcel they will accept,make sure your parcel are not too long or too heavy. you can check the limits here.
Tea, instant noodles, bamboo products, etc.;
3. Liquid, paste, powdered items
Cosmetics like perfume,lipstick,foundation,nail polish,pencils,pens,alcohol,thermometer,ink etc..
4. Knife and Gun
survival knife,toy gun,water bb gun
5. Electronic device
humidifier,rice cooker,electric toy,vacuum cleaner,etc
6. Magnetic items or parts
Magnets, audio equipment such as audio, motors, speaker, compasses, coils, etc.
7. Battery and items with inbattery
Mobile phones, computers,powerbank,watches,lithium battery
8. Branded,fake,replica,counterfeit items
There is another post on things taobao can’t ship to you. Take a quick look at it to ensure your items are not on that list.
The warehouse will not open and check if each order is branded or fake. Usually they get the clue from your order information online or outer packaging of the parcel.
If they find some sensitive brand logos, such as nike, adida, LV, Gucci, prada, they will reject this order.
If you insist on ordering branded or replica through Taobao, tell your sellers to use simple, neutral packaging and try not to expose brand logo.
If you are still not sure, I suggest you contact the forwarder support, provide them the product link, they will give you a correct answer.
If you still want to buy prohibited items from taobao, you have to use a taobao agent who can provide various shipping solution to ship these items to you.
buy from Taobao using an agent
As you can see,Taobao direct only support a few countries. If you live in Europe or other areas,purchasing from Taobao directly is not an option.
Also Taobao direct will not allow you to buy and ship some items,
this is where a taobao agent is needed.
if you are totally a newbie about taobao agent, you can read this post that take you through the whole process of using a taobao agent and what things to consider when choose a good taobao agent.
3 Tools to translate Chinese taobao to English taobao
The one of the major difficulty you are facing to shop on taobao is the Chinese language. In order to solve this obstacle, you need some tools to get the single page or the whole website translated into your onw language.
google chrome browser
This browser enables instant webpage translation into English, a prerequisite for comfortable Taobao.com shopping. (Unless, of course, you are fluent in reading Chinese.)
This method is far preferable to individual-word translating because you get the big picture. Some of the text may look weird or seem poorly translated, but it’s sufficient to allow you to shop.
Note: Swich to orginal Chinese webpage when you do a action like submit a form or click a button.Action may not work in a translated page.
If you get stuck at a non-translatable section, a good source for instant translation from Chinese -> English is google translate,Just cut and paste the characters into the box.
google translate app
If you cannot copy & paste to translate, you can install the google translate app on your phone,use your camera to translate text instantly.you can also use its camera mode to take pictures of text for better translation.
Part 2. Create your taobao account
about the mobile number
I know you don’t feel comfortable to expose your real mobile number to a foreign website,but I still recommend you use a long-term valid number to register the taobao account because Taobao will send SMS to you periodically to verify your account.
Once your account is locked or frozen and the number you left there is invalid,it is very very hard to unlock it !
register taobao account on PC
Open an account on PC is very easy because it provides English version of sign up now.I have written another post on how to register a taobao account.just follow the steps you will be able to get your taobao account.
Taobao frequently hold or block your account if they detect you try to login from different device or IP. So don’t change your PC or IPs when it is still a new account.
register taobao account on your smart phone
you can also install taobao lite(淘宝lite) on your mobile phone and register account there.
it is easier and safer for your account.I strongly recommend you using this way to create your taobao account.
aliwangwang is a chat software like skype,you are able to use it to chat with sellers on 1688.com and taobao.Seller there also use it as the primary tool to send important messages to you.
But aliwangwang account can not registered separately. you can only sign in with your taobao username/password.
So after creating taobao account,you can download and sign in aliwangwang for future communication directly with the seller. here is the official download page.
Part 3. Add your address
another thing to do is adding receiver address. Click【shipping address】from the left sidebar of the admin page.
you will be able to modify or add your address as you do on other websites.Taobao can save up to 20 addresses.
Be sure the cellphone number is correct as the forwarder or your local courier will send you messages when your parcel is moving.
Part 4. Choose product and seller
find the right product
You can use product image and English keywords to search on taobao.here is the guide.
the product page
Browse and shop in the translated Taobao.com site to your heart’s content.Click on a category or an item, and you’ll see a page lay-out similar to this one. Look familiar?
Clicking “Buy Now” will take you directly to checkout. If you’re filling a shopping cart, you will need to add a check (√) by your confirmed item(s) to activate the orange “Submit” field.
check seller rating and review
Before you fall irreversibly in love with an item, check the seller’s rating and reviews on the product page. you can learn more about seller rating and buyer review from this post.
Tip #1: Don’t trust the reviews on the top or on the first review page because 90% of them are paid fake reviews.
Tip #2: Never buy from new seller with zero or few ratings no matter how good their price is.
Part 5. Place the order
ater submitting the order,you will be taken to the confirm order page,Here you can choose the delivery address,the shipping method and confirm the final product information.
Confirm the delivery address
you can update or select the address which is added in the above step or you can add new address here.
Choose shipping method
Choose here between the Taobao.com default shipping method “Taobao Consolidated Shipping(集运)” or an individual arrangement with the seller.
Service provider is also called freight forwarder,you can click “Modification Service Provider” to change it.
You need to remember who is your forwarder as you will have to deal with them if you have any problems with your parcel or delivery.
the default forwarder is always the Official Air Transport(菜鸟cainiao).
Taobao Consolidated Shipping (集运)
“after the consignment(集运)” is called Taobao Global Consolidation and Shipping.The process of using it pretty simple:
you submit orders with this option selected and make the first payment for order value.
Seller will be shown the forwarder warehouse address with your unique ID on the order page and send orders to the forwarder warehouse.
warehouse receive it ,weigh it,update you the weight and shipping fee from your account.
Once all orders arrived at the forwarder warehouse,you can log in and make the second payment for the International shipping fee (from forwarder’s warehouse to your destination address),they will consolidate and ship all your orders in one parcel to your address.
Note: Taobao Global Consolidation and Shipping currently only support USA,Canada, Australia,New Zealand,Singapore and Malaysia,Japan.if you are not from these countries,you won’t see this option.
contact seller shipping
you have to contact the seller personally before selecting this option.Most of taobao sellers do not ship internationally or the shipping fee can be extremely high,so I do not recommend this option.
Taobao Direct Shipping(直运)
for some countries,you can also select 直运(“directly”).All your items will be sent to you directly as individual packages.
You’ll pay for order value+domestic shipping fee+the international shipping fee together as a one-time transaction.
This is recommended if your order is urgent or small. if you have a large haul and want to save the shipping fee,go with consolidated shipping.
Confirm order information
Message to seller(给卖家留言): you can leave a note to seller regarding your order.
Find somebody to pay(找人代付): you can ask someone else with an Alipay account to pay for your item(s).
Anonymous purchase(匿名购买): check this if you do not want people to look up what you purchase, when, from whom, etc.
Note: even if an item shows to be in stock and a payment could be made, this doesn’t mean the seller actually has the stock. It is recommended that, after payment, you send the order number and warehouse address to the seller to check if they could send out the items on time.
Part 6. First Payment(order value+domestic shipping fee to warehouse)
After submitting your order, you will be redirected to the Alipay account platform to make the first payment. There you’ll see your own User Name assigned to an Alipay account.
Alipay payment password
If it is your first purchase using Alipay,you will be required to create an Alipay payment password (6 numerical digits, non-repeating).
This password is a unique one, and will NOT be the same as your Taobao.com password.
choose payment method
Then you will be able to choose payment method as shown below:
- support VISA,MASTERCARD,JCB
- service fee is 3%
- Sellers with credit card payment gateway :per transaction limit: 10000 CNY,per day limit: 10000 CNY
- Sellers without credit card payment gateway :per transaction limit: 6000 CNY,per day limit:6000 CNY
- service fee is 1.5%
Alipay gift card (支付宝购物卡)
- no service fee
- Australians can buy it from local post offices
- per transaction limit: 4500 CNY,per day limit: 5000 CNY
Part 7. Manage your order
After making the first payment, you may go to “Purchased Items(已购买的宝贝)” to monitor your order status.
I labelled 8 important points here and will explain them one by one to give you a better understanding of how to check your order and solve your problem.
Label 1: the blue icon(“和我联系”)
If you already installed aliwangwang,click this icon to chat with the seller.this is the most direct way to communicate with the seller,you can ask seller about the product,the domestic shipping or the refund address.
Label 2: 退款/退货
this is link to return and refund page where you can submit a form to require return and refund.check out this step by step guide on how to do this.
It will take some time for seller to approve the refund,you can talk with the seller before you submmit the application to smooth the process.
Label 3: 退运保险
if seller has bought domestic shipping insurance for you,you will be would be compensated when you return items from warehouse to the seller.
Label 4: order status
this means you have successfully made the payment.
this means seller has sent your items to the warehouse.
this means the domestic courier is delivering this shipment and the warehouse is about to receive it.
it means forwarder warehouse received it,not you!Usually a red button “支付转运费 or 处理转运” on the right like picture below,it means the warehouse get your items and you need to pay for the international shipping fee to get your items.when you see “快件已签收” but no “Pay for international shipping(支付转运费)” button or button like”处理转运”,this is not good because there might be something wrong with your items.
Here, I would like to remind you that in average,your purchased items should reach the warehouse in 3-5 days from the date when order status changed to “卖家已发货” (which means that your items are shipped by sellers).
If the red button does not appear after 5 days, it simply means there’s something wrong with the items. You should then check it with your forwarder and the seller immediately for clarification.
This is very important. I have received emails from many readers saying that they have waited for days for the button to appear. Little did they know that there was something wrong with their items.
The “Logistics Helper(国际物流助手)” in the app will automatically send you the notification.
Label 5: order details(订单详情)
If you want to know where the warehouse address is just in case,click Label 5 after your payment,find “收货地址”,that address is the warehouse address.”转运至” means your address(see screenshot below).
Label 6: 查看物流
Click Label 6 to go to logistics info page.then on the left bottom of the page,you will see the following info:
- 国内段运输 means domestic shipping
- 海外段运输 means internatioanl shipping
- 运单号码 means your waybill number
- 物流公司 means your courier/forwarder
- 发货地址 means seller address
- 集运仓地址 means forwarder warehouse address
- 收货地址 means your address
Label 7: the countdown timer
When this countdown timer expired,your payment will be released to the seller.It is not the time left to pay the freight forwarding fees,so don’t worry if it has only a few days left.
Label 8: your action
确认收货(confirm recepit): you don’t have to click this to pay for international shipping.this confirmation is telling seller you have received the item,when that countdown timer expired,it will auto confirm.Just ignore this filed.
Part 8. Second payment(international shipping fee)
After the parcel is properly received by the warehouse, You can check the status of the parcels, the actual weight of the parcels, and the rent-free period.
Step 1. Go to the “Manage Your Parcel” page
Log into your taobao account,Click [跨境物流管理(cross-border logistics management)] in the upper right corner of world.taobao.com homepage or click here
Step 2. Choose the parcel to consolidate
You will see the parcels that are waiting to be consolidated.Choose them and click “One-click package settlement(一键合包结算)”, the system will consoliate the parcels according to the shipping restrictions and automatically calculate the total shipping fee.
The free storage time in the warehouse is 20 days,so you can consolidate all orders from different sellers within that period.you will be charged 1 CNY per parcel per day for extra days.
You can only consolidate up to 20 parcels/orders,if you have more than 20 orders,you’d need to consolidate your orders into 2 packages as each package can only have 20 orders.
There is a weight and size limit by the forwarder,Make sure your package does not exceed the limit.
Step 3. Confirm the delivery address and Pay
Then next page you need to confirm the delivery method & delivery address, click the “Submit and Pay” button to pay the final international shipping fee if everything is ok.
NOTE 1: In another post,I fully explained the Taobao Global Consolidation and Shipping,the forwarder behind it,their price rate,size and weight limit,how they calculate the weight etc. It is a must-read post for every taobao shipping beginner.
Part 9. Tracking &Receving
All shipments are door-to-door, you just have to wait for the package, but you still need to spend some time to track your order.
Many problems will occur at this stage, especially during the promotion or sales season.
Tracking your orders frequently and keeping in touch with the forwarder is a very important thing.
How long does it take to receive my Taobao order?
Below is the average delivery time provided by the forwarder:
- USA: Cainiao 9 business days
- Canada: UPS 5-7 business days,EMS/DHL 9 business days
- Australia: JCEX 5 business days,ZTO 秀驿物流 6 business days,4px 7 business days
- New Zealand: 7 business days
- Singapore: 5 business days
- Malaysia: West Malaysia 5 business days,East Malaysia 7 business days
- Japan: 4PX 5 business days,PRouter 4-8 business days.
This is just the estimate date,sometimes it can be longer than this.if your tracking status did not update in a longer time than usual,you should check with your forwarder,it may be lost or detained in the Customs.
The speed of the local customs clearance and local postal services will also affect the delivery time.
How can I track my orders?
Track it via your account center on taobao.com
Remember Label 6 I mentioned above? click it to logistics info page,you will see the recent tracking status.
Track it via contacting the forwarder
You can provide your waybill number and ask them where your items are now(我的货现在在哪里),they will tell you the shipping status.
Track it on 17track.net
17track is a ALL-IN-ONE package tracking website,it supports most of the tracking numbers.
The good thing about trackingmore is it also supports China domestic tracking number in English,so you can also track the domestic parcel.
Cainiao tracking is built by alibaba,it is more compatible with tracking number from cainiao logistic(the official forwarder).
Note: for some countries,Waybill number for international shipping can only be trackable after your country’s Customs clearance.you will find no tracking information before that.
Customs import duties
You may be charged customs duties and taxes for things purchased from taobao.here is the a list of tax threshhold and rate.
The amount of tax threshold is the total value of your parcel+the shipping fee, not just the value of the parcel.
Parcels sent to Canada will also be charged 5% GST.
What if I get seized by Customs
If you are using UPS or DHL then they will email you invoice of custom and collect money at your doorstep at the time of delivery.
If you choose EMS then once your courier reaches your local post office,you will receive a call from post office and you will need to go there and pay.
Part 10. After-Sale
After the seller has sent out the goods, you may request for a refund within 25 days.
- Within the first 10 days, you may request for a refund by clicking the “Refund” button.
- Within the subsequent 15 days, you may request for a refund via “After-sales application”.
If there is a refund,Money will return to your credit card within 7 business days. Service fee will return to you if the refund is initiated within 30 calendar days from the time you make payment. After 30 days, no return for service fee.
You can return the goods from the warehouse to the sellers,but the return shipping address is needed,you have to contact the seller to ask for it.here is the step by step guide.
Part 11. Resolving Issues
- How can I change my taobao account information (email, phone number)?
- How to contact taobao customer service or the forwarder?
- How do I verify my Alipay account?
- How do I make a refund request?
- How can I return the goods from warehouse to the seller?
Enjoy Your Taobao.Com Shopping!
Trust me, once you get the hang of buying directly from Taobao, It will always be your No.1 source when buy inexpensive and amazing stuff online.